President Trump will travel to Europe in May for his first time since taking office to meet with EU leaders, attend a NATO meeting, and visit the organization’s headquarters in Brussels. Although he has walked back some of his more extreme criticisms of the European project and transatlantic organization from the campaign, Trump’s unpredictability remains a concern for many American allies. In this podcast, Paul Haenle sat down with Tomáš Valášek, the director of Carnegie Europe and former permanent representative of the Slovak Republic to NATO, to discuss the future of transatlantic relations and what shifting dynamics across Europe could mean for China.
Valášek said that Trump’s election was received with great apprehension by European nations, especially members of NATO. Although NATO has been confronted with internal challenges in recent years, President Trump’s questioning of its value represented a fundamentally new threat to the organization, according to Valášek. Valášek noted that the decision to strike Syria on humanitarian grounds gave European allies some hope that Trump’s “America First” foreign policy might not be so narrowly defined. He argued that Trump’s propensity to change views, including on China policy, would make it more difficult to anticipate the President’s future foreign policy actions. Within Europe, Valášek warned that China risked becoming entangled in historical and geopolitical tensions with its Belt and Road Initiative and should be wary of how other countries perceive future investments.
Paul Haenle is the director of the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy based at Tsinghua University in Beijing. Haenle’s research focuses on Chinese foreign policy and U.S.-China relations.
Tomáš Valášek is the director of Carnegie Europe, where his research focuses on security and defense, transatlantic relations, and Europe’s Eastern neighborhood.